Atayal Knife

Tags: aborigine | Atayal | knife

A knife was one of the essential accessories of an indigenous male. The males of the Atayal, Paiwan, Puyuma, Amis, Saisiyat and Tsou tribes all carried knives. For the indigenous peoples living in the mountains, knives were necessary for survival. They were used to clear a path when walking through mountain forests, for hunting and for making pipes, bows and arrows and rattan items for daily use. Thus, knives served a number of purposes.


This knife measures 71 centimeters in length and is referred to as “Lalau” in the Atayal language. There is woven rattan from the handle to the blade. The tip of the blade is arc-shaped. The back of the sheath has two holes for attaching hemp rope for carrying the knife at the waist. In general, every Atayal male had to carry this type of knife when working or walking in the mountains. It can be said that the knife is the “life” of the hunter. There are slight variations in the shape of the blade tip among the Atayal living in different areas. These differences were one of the criteria used to divide the Atayal into subtribes. For example, among the Atayal of the mountainous areas of Nantou and the Taroko area, the knife blade was much more curved than among the Atayal of other areas. In former times, when the Atayal practiced headhunting, the hunter would cut off some of the hair from the head and tie it to the knife. This was thought to increase the hunte's skill and to represent that the knife had obtained spiritual power.


Department of Graphic Communications and Digital Publishing, Shih Hsin University Digital archiving project of the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines